More startling was the fact that Hernandez maintained his place in the team. Originally it was thought that Wayne Rooney would be the player to be disappointed if he was to maintain his place but instead it was at the expense of Dimitar Berbatov.
Berbatov’s goal tally this season has been his finest return for us since he got here and some feel it is unfair that he always seems to be the one to suffer when we play a big game but last night especially, Sir Alex got it right.
Berbatov is a genius, capable of pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat at any moment and that plus his goal scoring this season should have seen him start but I think Sir Alex was right in leaving him on the bench last night.
We have come to expect a certain level of brilliance from Wayne Rooney. As a top player he should be playing at a certain level week in week out and whilst he has failed to reach the heights of last season or even match the performances, last night he was decent and it was a better performance from him than we saw in games we’ve won ie against Man City.
His goal was a good one and his overall performance was decent but the master stroke from Sir Alex was his inclusion of Hernandez.
Chicharito had said that he had no problem dropping on to the bench for the game, he has a great attitude in accepting his role in the squad and would have made Sir Alex’s decision easier had he been swapped with Berbatov or Rooney but how do you drop a player that had just scored two goals in the previous game?
Despite his words, anyone would have been gutted to have been dropped after a goal scoring performance like his on Saturday, so Sir Alex’s decision to keep him in the team was one that worked not only to improve his morale but also could have worked well for us in the scheme of things in the game against Chelsea.
One of Berbatov’s faults is he lacks mobility, he came in for a lot of stick last season playing up top by himself against Blackburn towards the end of the season and whilst I prefer the term ‘languid’ others prefer to call him lazy. What ever way you look at it he isn’t the most mobile of strikers.
Playing him yesterday would have played into Chelsea’s hands as he wouldn’t have made their defence work as hard as Hernandez did. Hernandez’s pace and movement was dragging their defenders all over the place. The incident where Luiz body checked him off the ball is a perfect example; Hernandez was off and Luiz knew he wasn’t going to catch him so the easy option was to just take him out. Shame the ref decided to ignore it!
Against anyone Hernandez provides that kind of threat, last night he allowed Rooney more freedom in the hole as well as Nani and Evra out wide whilst Berbatov’s more static play isn’t going to provide the same kind of problems for defenders. His movement could even have seen him on the score sheet after Rooney chose to shoot rather than looking for him or Fletcher who were in the middle and open.
When Hernandez came off he looked exhausted but his tiredness wasn’t just because he played hard it was because he was coming under heavy fire taking bumps and knocks a plenty from a defence weary of the threat he posed.
Berbatov as I said doesn’t provide the same kind of thing but a counter to this is that we were sat so deep, with Berbatov’s excellent hold up play he could try and slow down the pace of the game as well as bring other players into attacks. I had previously said I would have sacrificed performance for a decent result and when Hernandez went off bringing an extra man into midfield and going one up top may been the difference. It may not have been pretty but it could have been effective as it was in midfield that we were losing out.
Hernandez has shown he can work well with both Rooney and Berbatov, playing him yesterday was a smart move by Sir Alex and we were unfortunate to have not benefited from it. There is constant talk of Chicharito giving Sir Alex a selection headache in terms of his goal scoring but his pace and effect off the ball is just as important as we saw last night.
He didn’t have the best of games but gave Chelsea a lot to think about, so I’ll put this as another mark in the positive column for him.
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